Pull up a chair and dig in with confidence.
Growing up with five siblings, eating alone was a strange concept and one I never considered until my freshman year of university. Solo dining was new territory for me and it scared the hell out of me.
But, one day I gathered up my courage and walked into the student union. It was awkward. I could feel their eyes judging me, as I pulled out my chair and sat in the food court. I heard the whispers. But I refused to cower and balefully swung my eyes towards the offenders. And realized.
No one cared.
Sure, someone might have glanced briefly in my direction, but for the most part, everyone was to self-engrossed to notice what I was doing. As I nibbled on my pizza, I looked around the cafeteria and realized I wasn’t alone in this venture. There were others and we were one in solidarity.
Fast forward, ten years later, and I’ve eaten alone in cool places like Beijing and Toronto or even during my adventures during Fashion Week. Admittedly, I sometimes have a tinge of nerves when I enter the restaurant and they ask “how many?”, but that feeling of embarrassment usually subsides once I remember, what I’m there for.
If you remember the simple goal of putting delicious morsels in your mouth, eating alone will become easier. So whether you’re a solo traveler or just want to treat yo-self, read on for my guide on How To Eat Alone: Solo Dining Tips and enjoy your meal in peace.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
- Don’t feel ashamed: There is nothing embarrassing or shameful about eating alone. We all have our reasons and we don’t have to explain it to anyone.
- Question It: Why are you anxious? Why does it bother you to eat alone? For me, I was so consumed with #squadgoals that I found solo dining mortifying. It re-emphasized my underlying anxiety of not belonging (which still pops up sometimes). But, I learned to push through it and simply deal. So, once you find the source, create an action plan on fixing it.
CREATE AN ACTION PLAN
- Practice: One thing I tell my lifestyle design clients is to start small when making changes. So go at a pace that’s comfortable for you. Sit in a coffee shop. Work your way up to a mom/pop shop and eventually to the restaurant of your choice. But!… Practice, practice, practice.
- Determination & Confidence: It sounds cliche to say, but you really have to be confident and sure when entering the restaurant and making your order. Say this out loud: “Table for 1 please.” Seriously, it all starts with revamping the situation and detoxing the “what-if’s” from your mind.
- Cultural Awareness: In some countries, solo dining may not be a social norm, especially in collectivist societies. For example, when I moved to South Korea, I went to a restaurant and they assumed I wanted take-out (because I was alone). I had to confidently and adamantly tell them I wanted to eat at the restaurant. It was a struggle but a great lesson on being persistent. So in situations like mine, you have to be culturally cognizant and become your own cheerleader. Because. one way or another that food is coming to you.
ALONE BUT NOT LONELY
- Buffer: I love a good buffer, I’m the girl who walks around with earphones in with nothing playing. I like looking unapproachable because it stops unwanted, small talk and I can focus on my food. Some of my favorite buffers include a book, phone, laptop, notebook, and sunglasses (because who doesn’t want to look cool?).
- People Watch: I’m a selectively nosy person, but I’m also ridiculously dramatic. So, to keep myself entertained, I like to concoct wildly absurd stories about the individuals surrounding me. I encourage you to wear the aforementioned sunglasses and earphones, to avoid being caught.
- Communal Seating: I’m allergic to small talk and I tend to be socially awkward when taken unawares. So the idea of communal seating was strange to me when I lived in Germany. SO again, it’s important to be aware of the different cultural social norms when traveling to different countries. More often than not, your seat mates will ignore you or you might chat away with some badass 70-year-old German women. Either way, keep an elevator speech in your back pocket, for the moments when your seat-mates focus their gaze on to you.
- Alcohol: Nothing wrong with a glass of wine or a pint of beer to calm your nerves. In fact, it helps with the digestion. Just, remember to pace yourself.
While solo dining can initially feel stressful, with practice and confidence it can be done. Don’t let the opinions and potentially pity of others, stop you from living life. I hope you found my guide on How To Eat Alone: Solo Dining Tips useful and if you know someone struggling with this, feel free to share it with them!
Be sure to let me know in the comments your thoughts on solo dining — was it an easy process for you or are you still struggling with eating alone?
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Originally published at www.87pages.com on November 22, 2016.
Originally published at medium.com